A great ellipse is an ellipse passing through two points on a spheroid and having the same center as that of the spheroid. Equivalently, it is an ellipse on the surface of spheroid and centered at the origin, or the curve formed by intersecting the spheroid by a plane through its center.
On the surface of a sphere, the shortest path between any two points follows a great circle, but the analogous statement is not true for spheroids. However, although paths along great ellipses are not true geodesics, they are close to geodesic.
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- Walwyn, P. R. (September 1999), "The great ellipse solution for distances and headings to steer between waypoints", Journal of Navigation 52 (3): 421–424, doi:10.1017/S0373463399008516.
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